Today we honor Independence Day by publishing the Declaration of Independence (see photo). We do so because we are committed to spreading news, and more than two centuries after it was written, the Declaration of Independence remains newsworthy.
In 1776, when a courageous band of patriots declared their homeland’s independence from Great Britain, then the most powerful empire on Earth, others took notice. The right of self-determination affirmed in the Declaration of Independence has been a beacon of liberty to generations of people here and abroad.
Many people confuse the Declaration of Independence with the U.S. Constitution, often regarding both documents interchangeably as mere museum relics from some dusty corner of our national past.
But both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution remain vital sources of our national identity.
The Declaration of Independence adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, expressed the passionate desire of American patriots to form their own government. Achieving independence from Great Britain required a bloody war, but even in victory, the new American government faced daunting obstacles, including the challenge of balancing myriad political interests within a civil society.
The Constitution created a framework for resolving differences and ensuring the will of the majority as well as the rights of all citizens.
It was an imperfect document, preserving slavery in its original version. However, the U.S. Constitution is a document that also included the means for its own improvement, and it has advanced a model of free and open government that ranks as a hallmark of human progress.
The ideals of the Revolution that we celebrate today endure because Americans have balanced the passion of liberty with the pragmatism of constitutional law.
May we always find that balance, even in the age of partisanship that shapes today’s political culture.